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Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Disney Customer Service 101: Why Courtesy Is Not Always Our First Priority

July 30, 2015 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

While it might seem surprising at first - because courtesy is what we are known for - it is not always the first priority for our Disney Cast Members. Why, you might ask? It’s because of this critical factor: Disney has defined and prioritized a set of quality service standards that help guide our Cast Members through a decision-making process for all Guest-related situations and issues. Therefore, in the hierarchy of these customer service standards, courtesy takes second place, behind our highest priority - safety.

As an illustration of how this works in practice, let’s take a look at the role of adventure guide for Adventures by Disney, which offers guided, group travel experiences worldwide. Because managers do not typically travel with groups, adventure guides must be able to make sound decisions impacting a variety of guest situations and issues, often in changing settings and circumstances.

To support this decision-making process, adventure guides are trained on Disney’s Four Keys Basics, in priority order: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. This training ensures that adventure guides fully understand that Safety is always the number one concern and priority—everything else, including Courtesy, falls in line after it.

Read how one adventure guide describes the importance of the Four Keys Basics in his decision-making process:

"The Four Keys Basics, to me, are how I build every decision that I make. Other organizations within our company have physical assets such as a theme park, cruise ship, or resorts. Because Adventures by Disney lacks these physical assets, adventure guides are a complete representation of the product and brand. With the help of the Four Keys Basics, we are able to deliver on the promises of safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency—in that order."
--Adventure Guide, Adventures by Disney

Can you imagine being an adventure guide, hosting a group of guests in another part of the world, and not being empowered to make quick decisions or resolve issues on behalf of your guests? Or worse yet, being concerned about making the “wrong” decision because you weren’t able to involve your manager? Interestingly, at Disney Institute we hear from our clients that too often employees in organizations around the world do encounter these scenarios.

What we find is that, all too often, employees are not empowered or equipped with the tools necessary to consistently make good decisions, which just serves to further frustrate employees and customers. Worse yet, this lack of delegation and thorough equipping can cause “service paralysis,” where no one feels as though they can make any decision, and managers are put in a position where they feel as though they have to micro-manage every decision.

At Disney Institute, we teach business professionals in our Disney’s Approach to Quality Service professional development course that exceptional service will never emanate from mass improvisation; service must be painstakingly designed across the entire “system.”

As a key component of a system-wide customer service framework, quality service standards can enable everyone—especially those closest to the customer—to make good decisions and do the right thing on a reasonably consistent basis.

And, that’s just better for everyone!

What tools do employees use to prioritize customer service decisions in your organization?


Disney Institute is ready to help you apply strategic rigor to your customer experience efforts - call us at 321.939.4600 or complete our Contact Form




Posted in Quality Service | Tagged Service, Quality Service, Service Excellence, Disney Service, Disney Service Standards, Four Keys Basics, Employee Engagement, Employee Empowerment, Guest Recovery, Bruce Jones


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